The adage “It’s not just what you know, but who you know” has never been more relevant than in this day and age, with more professionals than ever saturating the workforce. Thus, a critical part of career advancement is frequently facilitated by actively seeking and forming new relationships and connections with potential employers, partners, and organizations. These relationships are often made possible through networking, or the process of interacting and building relationships with those in related fields or lines of work. The practice of networking, however, is often abused by people who are so eager to advance their own positions that they leave negative impressions with the very people they hope to impress. Following the tips below can help develop mutually beneficial, meaningful relationships and avoid burning bridges.
Five Networking Tips for Business Professionals
1. Be noticeable.
How does one stand out? By being willing to help and eager to contribute. Most people who attempt to network, whether with peers or higher-ranked individuals, are interested in what they can gain by beginning the relationship. Demonstrating a genuine interest in providing value to the other person will make building a relationship more likely, but it will also portray you as someone who recognizes the value of reciprocation and operates differently than those who are only interested in furthering their own interests.
Another way to stand out is to keep in touch long after the champagne glasses or conference banners have been put away. Follow up with the contacts you make. Engage with them periodically—not to badger them but simply to jog their memories of the ways you could benefit them. This can often make the difference between a single promising conversation and a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.
2. Be consistent.
Be mindful of the persona you present—not just in a conversation with a potential contact but in every arena of your personal and professional life. Today, anyone can easily assess the consistency of a person by checking the facts: your social media profiles, social circles, and even the blog you published two years ago are all easily accessed on the internet and can cause misunderstanding if the image you present does not remain consistent.
You can also develop a consistent personal brand by putting a bit of thought into how you present yourself. In conversations with potential contacts, position yourself not as a product of your current situation (whether it be as a job seeker, young professional, or seasoned veteran) but as a resource. This persona not only will make you more valuable to those with whom you’d like to network but can also form an identity that will outlast your current station and thus allow you to remain consistent in your presentation. Become a resource for others and then stay that way throughout your career.
3. Be genuine.
Monster.com, one of today’s largest career search websites, emphasizes the importance of quality over quantity in your networking endeavors. People can tell when someone is attempting to connect with them not because of genuine interest but simply in an effort to connect with as many individuals as possible. Operating in this manner sends a poor message. Pay attention to your behavior the next time you encounter someone who could be considered a potential contact. Did you hand that person your business card right away? Did you spend much of the conversation internally formulating your own pitch without listening to what the individual had to say? Did you make eye contact while the person was speaking, or was you busier watching for other potential contacts who may pass by?
4. Communicate honestly.
Everyone wants to impress. It’s almost expected that people will inflate their accomplishments or exaggerate their experiences when recounting them to others, especially in the context of networking. Because of this, a little dose of honesty can go a long way in showing that you are trustworthy and genuine. Don’t try to hide the instances in your past where you had to learn from failure or mistakes. If you don’t have experience in an area, expertise with a particular type of software or other qualification, don’t try to make it sound like you do. Being truthful about, both your weaknesses and strengths will prove that you are willing, to be honest, and humble and can communicate a host of attractive characteristics to a potential employer, partner, or contact.
5. Listen attentively.
People are more than their credentials, accomplishments, and skillsets. Whether he or she is an industry icon or someone in a similar position to yours, the person across from you has a story. Don’t just ask people about their professional prowess. Be interested in them. Ask them about their interests, families, and hobbies—and then listen for the answer. Those human tidbits make the conversation much more enjoyable and will also provide common ground and personal details about which to follow up later.
Almost anyone in business will attest to the importance of networking. The networking attempts many professionals exert, however, often never produce positive results and might even negatively impact their attempts to advance their careers. Savvy business professionals utilize the practices outlined above to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded professionals that could lead to incredible opportunities for all parties.
A Rutgers Masters of Business Administration online prepares you with the professional expertise to deliver results, positively impact outcomes in today’s increasingly complex global business landscape and further define yourself as a leader in the business world.
This article was created thanks to the insights of Dr. Chester Spell, Professor of Management at Rutgers University